If you are caught with a fake ID in California you could face steep penalties – especially if you are under the legal drinking age. California has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to kids and alcohol, and has implemented a number of laws to discourage underage drinking. The most comprehensive law targets individuals who use or possess a fake ID.
California Fake ID Law
California Penal Code 470b PC makes it a crime to display or possess any fake identification with the intent to commit a forgery. Understanding what the law means requires breaking it down into its elements.
What is considered fake identification?
California defines fake identification as a government (or other) issued ID card that has been altered, falsified, forged, duplicated, reproduced, or counterfeited. Forms of IDs that may fall under this category include:
- Government-issued driver license;
- Military ID;
- Social Security Card;
- State issued ID; or
- State or Federal employee ID card.
What is a forgery? The false ID must also be possessed or used with the intent to commit a forgery. A forgery is, simply put, an act intended to defraud or deceive another person. For example, using false identification to deceive a sales clerk about your age to encourage them to sell you alcohol would be a forgery.
Penalties for Using Fake IDs in California
Violations of California’s fake ID law may be either a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the circumstances. If charged as a misdemeanor, a conviction for the possession of fake ID may be punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. If charged as a felony, a conviction for may be punishable by between 16 months and three years in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000.
Individuals who utilize fake identification for the purposes of obtaining alcohol may face driver’s license revocation or suspension. If a minor is not of age to have a driver’s license, the date at which they are eligible to apply for a license may be pushed back. Note, suspension or revocation of driving privileges may adversely impact automobile insurance premiums.
California has a number of laws on the books targeted at underage drinkers. These laws are intended to discourage underage drinking and to punish those who are caught using false identification. In California, it is illegal for a person under the age of 21 to attempt to purchase alcohol, to possess alcohol, or to purchase alcohol.
Conviction of one of these offenses could result in $100-$250 in fines and 24-32 hours of community service.
Defenses to California Fake ID Charges
Conviction under California’s fake ID law requires two things: possession and/or use of false identification, and the intent to use that fake ID to commit a forgery. Absence of one of those elements should render the charges moot. As a result, defenses to the fake ID charges in California include:
- Lack of knowledge that the ID was fake;
- Lack of possession of the false ID; or
- Lack of intent to commit a forgery.
For example, if a teenager has and uses an older sibling’s expired license to attempt to purchase alcohol, they are likely to be guilty under California’s fake ID law. If you, a person over the age of 21, have an expired license and use it to try to purchase alcohol, you are likely not guilty under California’s fake ID law because you lacked the intent to commit a forgery. You may have also been unaware that your license was no longer valid.
Conviction under California’s fake ID law can impose serious restrictions on your right to enjoy certain privileges in the future. If you have been charged with the possession or use of a fake ID in California, contact an experienced fake ID defense attorney today.